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A State At Any Cost: the Life of David Ben-Gurion by Tom Segev Hardcover 2019


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A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion 
by Tom Segev (Author), Haim Watzman (Translator)
Hardcover – September 24, 2019

2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist

“[A] fascinating biography . . . a masterly portrait of a titanic yet unfulfilled man . . . this is a gripping study of power, and the loneliness of power.” ―The Economist

As the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion long ago secured his reputation as a leading figure of the twentieth century. Determined from an early age to create a Jewish state, he thereupon took control of the Zionist movement, declared Israel’s independence, and navigated his country through wars, controversies and remarkable achievements. And yet Ben-Gurion remains an enigma―he could be driven and imperious, or quizzical and confounding.

In this definitive biography, Israel’s leading journalist-historian Tom Segev uses large amounts of previously unreleased archival material to give an original, nuanced account, transcending the myths and legends that have accreted around the man. Segev’s probing biography ranges from the villages of Poland to Manhattan libraries, London hotels, and the hills of Palestine, and shows us Ben-Gurion’s relentless activity across six decades. Along the way, Segev reveals for the first time Ben-Gurion’s secret negotiations with the British on the eve of Israel’s independence, his willingness to countenance the forced transfer of Arab neighbors, his relative indifference to Jerusalem, and his occasional “nutty moments”―from UFO sightings to plans for Israel to acquire territory in South America. Segev also reveals that Ben-Gurion first heard about the Holocaust from a Palestinian Arab acquaintance, and explores his tempestuous private life, including the testimony of four former lovers.

The result is a full and startling portrait of a man who sought a state “at any cost”―at times through risk-taking, violence, and unpredictability, and at other times through compromise, moderation, and reason. Segev’s Ben-Gurion is neither a saint nor a villain but rather a historical actor who belongs in the company of Lenin or Churchill―a twentieth-century leader whose iron will and complex temperament left a complex and contentious legacy that we still reckon with today.


“[A] deeply researched, engrossing and, in some respects, controversial biography . . . Segev is best when probing the human side of the complex leader. Often brusque in manner, outwardly self-assured and iron-willed, Ben-Gurion poured his innermost emotions into his diaries and letters . . . Through the drama of his life, and despite his failings―both personal and political―Ben-Gurion emerges in Segev’s book as a man of vision and integrity.” ―Francine Klagsbrun, The New York Times Book Review
“The Israeli historian Tom Segev paints a conflicting portrait of Israel’s founder in his monumental A State at Any Cost . . . Unlike Ben-Gurion’s previous biographers, even the best of whom found it impossible not to stray at times in to hagiography, Segev is unsparing in his depiction of the less appealing sides of his private and political personalities. He also convincingly and meticulously builds the case for Ben-Gurion as a visionary leader, efficient organiser and persuasive advocate without whose efforts Israel, as an independent and sovereign state, may never have come into being.” ―Anshel Pfeffer, The Times (London)
About the Author
Tom Segev is a columnist for Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, and author of several works on the history of Israel: 1949: The First Israelis; The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust; and One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate. He lives in Jerusalem.
Product details
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Illustrated edition (September 24, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 816 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0374112649
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 9780374112646
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.6 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.4 x 1.71 x 9.35 inches

Additional information

Weight 0.800 g
Dimensions 25 × 20 × 6 cm
Subject Area

Modern History, Regional History

Educational Level

Comprehensive School, Adult & Further Education


Advanced, Beginner, Intermediate, Proficiency


Dust Jacket, Illustrated

Item Height


Item Width


Publication Name

A State AT Any Cost: the Life of David Ben-Gurion






Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc



Publication Year




Item Weight


Number of Pages

816 Pages


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